49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

January 19, 2010
Don't count on a Bush-Smith reunion this offseason

Mike Singletary says he wants a punt returner and will leave no stone unturned to find one. One of the best in the league, Reggie Bush, was a star on the national stage this weekend, and there has been plenty of speculation that he could be available this offseason. For one thing, Bush was used sparingly during the season, often disappearing for stretches. He's also had several surgeries, including a microfracture procedure, to his left knee since entering the league in 2006. The biggest reason is his salary. It balloons to $8 million next year and then jumps to $11 million in 2011.

The sentiment in New Orleans, however, is that Bush isn't going anywhere and won't be reunited with high school teammate Alex Smith in 2010. I spoke to Mike Triplett of the Times-Picayune, who said that Saints coach Sean Payton absolutely loves Bush (He was seen giving the running back a smooch on the cheek after Sunday's win over Arizona.) Payton has one of the most creative offensive minds in the league, and someone with Bush's versatility is priceless to him, even if he's used merely as a decoy that keeps defenses on their toes. And the reason why Bush was used so sparingly in the regular season was because Payton wanted to save him for the postseason - a tactic that paid dividends this weekend.

The Saints definitely could - and probably will - ask Bush to restructure his contract. But Bush could command enough interest around the league, especially in a cap-less season, that he could safely decline the Saints' request. For the 49ers, a more likely veteran target would be Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs, who is unhappy with his contract and whose team would be more interested than the Saints in accruing extra draft picks. I wrote about Cribbs' situation the other day. And, of course, the draft is particularly deep in return men this year.

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New special teams coach Kurt Schottenheimer is in Orlando this week to help coach the West squad in the East-West Shrine game. One return man he should keep an eye on is SMU's Emmanuel Sanders, who averaged 13.8 yards on punt returns this year, good for 10th in the nation.

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It looks like the coach Schottenheimer replaced, Al Everest, won't be out of work long. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that Everest will be the Steelers' new special teams coordinator.

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Another ex 49ers coach, Mike Nolan, has left the Broncos and is now the Dolphins' defensive coordinator, FOX's Jay Glazer reports. Suddenly, the London matchup between the 49ers and Broncos is not nearly as interesting.

-- Matt Barrows

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MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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